Mr. Andrey Vinogradov, Head of Center for Political Studies & Forecasts, RAS Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Russia
From the very beginning of mankind, international relations have been represented as interactions between peoples and their cultures. They were direct, open, very flexible and diverse, unladen of external constraints, but at the same time lacking an internal structure.
Relations between states have become a new stage in the development of international relations. They gave them order, furnished with rigor, harmony, certain predictability, but at the same time with severe problems that could not be solved within the framework of these relations, primarily because of their strict regulation and contradictions in state’s interests. All this was true for Eurasia as well.
The Eurasian continent has always been a space of interactions between peoples inhabiting it. Despite the memories of the wars that have taken place here, in history remained much more evidence of fruitful cooperation between nations as a result of trade, cultural, scientific and technological exchanges. The Great Silk Road, which connected the East and the West became the main symbol of successful historical contacts. The civilizations located at the far ends of the continent occurred to be the most developed (but at the same time very different) cultural centers not only of Europe and Asia, but of the whole world. Thus, Ancient Silk Road elaborated a great pattern for all contacts of mankind.
The Road was divided into dozens of streams and side streams that nourished to a different extent entire Eurasian landmass facilitating cooperation and well-being throughout the continent. Periods of instability and wars between states and empires hindered communication, violated cooperation, but could not sever links between peoples. This historical experience implies several conclusions that remain relevant till present days. The most important of them is that: international relations are based on contacts between peoples. But the infrastructure of communication, which facilitated these contacts, has always been created by states and is subject to relations between them.
For the last decades new means of transport and mass communication, as well as economic globalization indivisibly linked the world. Today it is impossible to imagine that these contacts can be terminated. This situation requires a certain infrastructure of humanitarian contacts that would complement to the relations between states, pushing them to a more cooperative mode of development, mitigating tension produced by states’ conflict of interests.
New initiatives on the international arena cannot be implemented without public organizations (NGOs), which are as much a distinctive feature of modern society as new means of mass communication.
The progress of science and technology has greatly expanded the possibilities of direct contacts between people and has once again made relations between peoples an important part of international relations. Public diplomacy as a parallel process, second track can foster development and serve to strengthen international relations. Therefore it is extremely valuable for the state and its foreign policy. Sometimes they say that this is a relationship between civil societies, opposing them to the relations between states. In reality, however, the relationship between cultures is simply broader and more diverse. The structure of this relationship has become more complex, and enables to solve problems that were previously unmanageable. One of such problems is trust - at the level of public awareness, and at the level of state institutions, and at the level of high ranking officials and country leaders.
NGOs are destined for executing these functions - the development of relations between cultures. The task of responsible states is to guide these relations in the right direction by creating favorable conditions for expanding contacts at the people-to-people level. Public diplomacy becomes an instrument for solving the problem of trust through mutual understanding.
The main challenge to the implementation of the "One Belt,One Road" initiative is to combine interstate relations and economic ties with communication between peoples and cultures, represented by various associations.
The main issue is to observe the balance between the state and NGOs so that the state does not detain the process, but build the infrastructure for contacts. And the NGOs should understand that they are “non-government”, but not anti-government organizations by nature. Along with the state they solve the same, common problems, but by other means, which in some cases proved to be more effective.
As a co-founder of the one of Russian NGOs on international relations, that is publishing one of the most well-known journals on international relations in Russia - "International Trends" I would like to proceed to a more specified issues.
We can start with a discussion of most difficult problems of history in interstate relations, with the goal not to make the final solution or find ultimate decision, but to find common ground, clarify the position and attitude and create a favorable atmosphere for exchanging views. The advantages of NGOs lie in its ability to start a dialogue on the most acute problems, despite the uncertainty of the result. The process of negotiation itself in most cases is more important than the immediate results.
Priority areas should be identified, i.e. find social groups that exert maximum influence on the formation of public opinion. Among such group are scientists, representatives of culture and art, athletes, etc., who are the bearers and creators of this culture. For them it is important not only to communicate with the people, but also to establish links among themselves.
It is necessary to create conditions for mutual preparation of journalists and media employees. It can be joint seminars with scientists, and there may be joint groups of journalists from boarder regions.
History textbooks create the basis for perception and attitude. Realizing all the delicacy of the topic, to begin with we could suggest that some chapters for regional studies textbooks are produced in close cooperation.
In the future, there may be the formation or preparation, for example, of agreed sections or clarified provisions on some controversial issues of history.